I saw my first episode of “Avatar: the Last Airbender” because a friend tricked me into it in high school.
Most people remember HBO’s “Deadwood” as “that show where they swore a bunch.” To put that in perspective, the word “fuck” is used 2980 times in 36 episodes, at a rate of 1.56 FPM (fucks per minute). The fan-favorite “cocksucker” is said less, but is uttered more than 300 times. “Deadwood” ran from 2004 to 2006, and I was only vaguely aware of it until sometime last year. I watched the show’s 36 episodes over the course of a month while crocheting a large, striped blanket. I concluded that although enjoyable, watching it would have been a very long, slow process if I hadn’t seen it all in one stretch.
The hour-long drama was based on real people and actual events from the 1870s gold rush in Deadwood, South Dakota, before the territory was annexed to the United States. The show follows the ensemble cast of characters as Deadwood develops from a prospecting settlement to a civilized town. Imagine airquotes because the town is still rampant with murder, prostitution, and corruption, under the thumb of ruthless saloon/brothel owner Al Swearengen.
I watch a lot of TV. No, correction. I watch a lot of television shows. Not because I want mindless entertainment, something that you do as you eat or as you lay on the couch after work, but because the television series as a modern work of art. A new form of storytelling as sophisticated as the novel. (And some novels are not that sophisticated.)
I am also guilty of the recent trend of marathoning, watching several seasons of TV shows in short period of time. I consider myself a TV show completist – once I start watching a show, it’s very difficult for me to justify not finishing the series, especially if all the episodes are available. The idea of a marathon is nothing new – TV stations have been doing it for years. But now that many people have access to Netflix, Hulu, and other alternate methods, they’re cutting the cord, and embracing their content through the internet, where they set their own pace. Bloggers and even people on Amazon are making guides as to what shows are best watched in rapid succession.
There has been some debate about whether or not you lose the essence of a show if you watch it as a marathon. Do you lose the giddy anticipation of waiting for the next episode to come on next Friday at 8pm? Do you like the show less because you don’t get to simmer on it or discuss it for a week with fellow fans? As someone having done both, I disagree.
I followed the show “Fringe” religiously when it came on the air in 2008. When I couldn’t see it live, I watched it the next day on Hulu, and continued to do so until the series finale aired this past January. Now, as I’m re-watching the show with my boyfriend (we marathoned the first ten episodes, and now are watching a couple a week), I’m more surprised with how short the series feels. I almost can’t comprehend how they fit so much story into just four seasons.
The first time I watched the show, the first ten episodes felt slow and clunky, but when we watched them almost back-to-back, the story felt more coherent. I attribute this not to my familiarity with the story arcs, but to seeing the answers to questions in a timely manner. When you watch them one by one, it feels like a poorly constructed procedural with underdeveloped characters, but seeing it as a whole, you carry the characterizations and subtle moments from episode to episode, and are less likely to forget things you might have if you watched it in syndication.
I’ve noticed the other reason I prefer to have my content available all at once is that it forces me to stick through to the end of a show I might not particularly like. The AMC drama “Breaking Bad” about a high school chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer after being diagnosed with cancer has received boatloads of critical acclaim. But when I watched it on Netflix, I don’t think that I would have stuck with the series past the first few episodes had it not been available on demand. More on that in a later post.
I marathon these shows because I want to get to know the characters, follow them through their triumphs and their tribulations. (And it doesn’t hurt that it gives me something to focus on while I knit and crochet.) So welcome to The Completist blog, where I will summarize my feelings and impressions of a show after completing a marathon viewing, and also maybe talk about a DIY project I completed in the meantime.